Managing workers’ compensation claim costs: Newton’s First Law of Motion and the light duty offer

Bricker & Eckler LLP

Bricker & Eckler LLP

If an employee has been injured at work, oftentimes they will not be able to return to their former position. Ohio Workers’ Compensation laws define the inability of an injured worker to return to their former position of employment as temporary total disability (TTD). If this occurs, the employee may be entitled to receive TTD compensation during their recovery period. 

However, this can be very difficult for employers who are trying to maintain full operations or holding positions open until the employee returns – which sometimes, can last a lot longer than expected. Newton’s First Law of Motion is that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it. The same can be said of workers’ compensation claimants, and sometimes, the employer has to be that “outside force.” 

Light duty offers

A proper light duty job offer is a safe and strategic way of returning an employee to work while at the same time saving employers significantly in claim costs.

Ohio workers’ compensation laws provide that TTD compensation cannot be paid when work within the employee’s physical capabilities is provided by the same employer, or a different employer. In other words, a light duty job offer can prevent or terminate TTD compensation – but it must be done properly. 

With this said, not any ‘ol light duty offer will do! A proper light duty offer must be:

  • made in good faith (many factors are considered here);
  • of suitable employment (within the employee’s capabilities); 
  • within a reasonable proximity of the injured worker's residence; and
  • in writing.

Another important step to creating a proper light duty offer is to have the physician of record approve the offer. While this is not required, it can be very helpful to proving that the offer was made in good faith. Whether an offer was made in good faith or of suitable employment are the most problematic elements of the offer for employers to navigate and have led to countless litigation. 

In the end, if a proper light duty offer is made, and the employee refuses to return to work for reasons unrelated to the injury, then an employer may move to terminate TTD benefits as a result. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that light duty job offers are crafted carefully to ensure they are considered valid.

If you are faced with a light duty situation, please contact your workers’ compensation attorney for assistance. 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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